After scoring an impressive 27-10 win on the road in Cincinnati this past Sunday in the AFC Wild Card round, the San Diego Chargers had every right to be feeling good about themselves. Now, the question begs, can they have that good feeling two weeks in a row?
While knocking off and eliminating a Cincinnati squad that had been unbeaten at home was big, getting a second win this season (Chargers won 27-20 on Dec. 12) in Denver would be even bigger.
With a bye last weekend, the top-seeded Broncos come into this Sunday's game rested and ready to make a run for a Super Bowl title with veteran and aging quarterback Peyton Manning. And when you say "aging" in regards to Manning, keep in mind all he did during the regular season was throw for more than 5,000 yards and 55 touchdowns.
So, what are some keys to the Chargers (9.5-point underdogs) increasing their odds of coming away with a win Sunday in the Mile High City?
Among the factors that would help:
1. Keep Manning on the sideline - In their win in Denver back in December, the Bolts held Manning to under 300 yards of passing, keeping him on the sidelines for a sizable chunk of the game. With Ryan Mathews wearing a boot during the week and not practicing (ankle injury), his status for Sunday's game is questionable. If he can't go, both Ronnie Brown and Danny Woodhead will need to pick up the slack in the running game.
2. Avoid key turnovers - Although quarterback Philip Rivers has had a solid season, he's still prone from time to time for throwing a bad interception at a key point of the game. Rivers will need to be in tune with Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates and his other offensive weapons from start to finish.
3. Defensive intensity - Lastly, the Bolts need to match last Sunday's defensive effort from their win over Andy Dalton and the Bengals. Turnovers by Dalton allowed San Diego to thwart drives and move the ball themselves. Given Manning's talent level is light years above Dalton's, the task will be even more difficult this time around.
If the Chargers can some how leave Denver with a victory, it will be on to either New England or Indianapolis for the AFC title game the following Sunday.